It’s an odd feeling, to be nostalgic about glorified poop jokes and deliberate self-abuse. Yet, that’s exactly what Jackass Forever inspires as Steve-O tumbles around a launched port-a-potty mere seconds into the comedy movie. Faeces, someone screaming out of fear and adrenaline, captured via GoPro fastened wherever it’ll fit: the DIY aesthetic is as laugh-inducing now as it was in 2000.
The opening salvo, an effects-laden monster movie motif featuring some colossal bare testicles, begets the typical mischief of Johnny Knoxville and company whenever someone’s silly enough to give them a film budget. Dave England, Wee Man, Preston Lacy, Ehren McGhehey, Chris Pontius, everyone is accounted for in the schlocky torment.
Now slightly grey-haired, their circus of home video mayhem is already wilder, more carefree and anarchic than anything else out there before Knoxville does his introduction to usher in that signature guitar twang. Once the ringmaster has gotten formalities out of the way and gathered our performers, it’s time for the ill-considered suffering and poor life choices to begin.
A human ramp is first, soon followed by human surfing. Bodies generally going where bodies shouldn’t, filmed like your mate with a camera phone when you’ve decided 2am is the optimal time to practice your long jump. Tension sits in the air as someone gains speed, then a mix of “ooh” and “aah” when they cross the threshold and land. Doesn’t tend to matter if they manage to find their feet, that’s never really been the point.
Animals, tasers, cannons, all the usuals are rolled out, Jeff Tremaine in the director’s chair as usual. McGhehey competes with Wee Man and new addition Sean ‘Poopies’ McInerney in a spelling and maths quiz where the losers are hit in the nether regions by a mechanism composed of a flip-flop stuck to a drum pedal. Knoxville plays host, excusing himself from danger by asking the questions.
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Musical chairs pop up later, with one of them rigged to launch someone into the air. Steve-O loses a contest of staying silent against someone whose tongue is electrified and another bitten by a snake. The cup test is brought back from the original series, this time strapped to McGhehey, who must weather the punishments of a professional softball pitcher and Francis Ngannou’s right hook.
It’s one of several ideas revisited, with older footage put in to contrast their youthful efforts against their older selves. Same people, doing the same daft stuff, decades apart. Steve-O makes mention of reminiscing about the last time they were all together like this, for 2010’s Jackass 3D. He’s not sure how much has really changed, except he looks better, and it must be said, he is looking in good form these days.
They all are. If it wasn’t for the silver on Knoxville’s head, you’d think this was all from some vault of cutting room floor material. Age is a running theme, with Pontius commenting that he’s done his time, suggesting that’s why we’re more likely to see him sporting a crop top for morale support than getting in harm’s way. Not that he doesn’t partake, just with his own particular brand of toilet humour.
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England and Steve-O trade places for another run at lighting farts on fire. An actual scientist is brought in, with a contraption for containing excreted gas and setting it alight. You can guess how it goes. Camaraderie has always been at heart of Jackass, and it’s especially pronounced here, as they trade-off on old gags and routines. They share the pain, in order to enjoy the communal celebration, both immediately after and in general.
Nothing has ever come close to Jackass. A bunch of oddball punk skaters who like to throw themselves around in shopping carts and get covered in bees just to see what happens. Their velocity, fueled by grabbing someone that can record, finding a decent vantage point, and then just trying something, remains singularly brave and inspiring. It’d be unnerving too, if it wasn’t for how much fun they all clearly have, an infectious joy that brings you along with them. Other new cast-mates Jasper Dolphin, Zach Holmes, and Rachel Wolfson fit right in, there to shoulder some of the more laissez faire activities.
They all care about entertaining each other first and foremost, and that’s why Jackass Forever is hilarious. McGhehey’s face sinking when a lie detector test becomes an encounter with a bear, or Machine Gun Kelly taking a giant hand to the face thanks to Steve-O, these are simple pleasures. Friends jiving with friends, communicating through quiet in-jokes and a love built up over years of shared bruises, cuts, hospital visits, lost teeth, and broken bones.
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They’re the Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy of our time. Clowns in all but costume that disregard accepted rules and standards. In 2000, Jackass proved all you needed for a good TV series was a group of friends who would try anything. Jackass Forever shows that’s still all you want for a great comedic adventure movie, and one that leaves a lump in your throat for those that aren’t here.
The circus has to leave town eventually. Far as greatest hits tours go, Jackass Forever is about as glorious as they come, self-defecation notwithstanding.
Jackass Forever is in theatres from February 4, 2022.
A funny, filthy reminder of why the Jackass crew are an unrivalled comedic force